D.C. Fire and EMS is adopting a new personnel policy after pregnant firefighters complained that they were being required to take unpaid maternity leave much sooner than in the past.
The police only allowed pregnant firefighters 30 days of light duty. After that, if they didn’t have enough sick leave or annual leave, they’d be without pay until they were able to return to full duty. That policy was adopted in the spring to save money.
Chief Kenneth Ellerbe announced a more lenient policy Thursday. Pregnant firefighters can get 90 days of light duty and then apply for another 90 days.
Ellerbe said the change doesn’t reflect the concerns of expectant mothers. All members will be treated equally, he said.
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, who oversees the fire department, had said he'd pass legislation to change the policy if the fire department didn't.
Local 36 of the firefighters union welcomed the new policy but said it still may force pregnant firefighters to endure a couple of months without pay.
Fewer than 100 women are among about 2,200 firefighters on the D.C. force. Just a few report pregnancies each year.